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Cayetano: ABS-CBN may operate until 2022 even if franchise expires in March

ABS-CBN may continue to operate until 2022 even if its franchise isn't renewed before its expiration on March 30, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Friday.

Cayetano said the House of Representatives would tackle the network's franchise "possibly in May" if the controversy had eased by then.

“Hindi ganoon ka-urgent. Bakit? Kasi hanggang March 2022, pwedeng mag-operate. Definitely, before March 2022, possibly in May if we have cooler heads," Cayetano said when asked about the House's timeline as regards the franchise renewal.

"Worst case, after SONA (State of the Nation Address),” he added.

There are now 11 bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise.

“Kung tayo mag-hearing ngayon, alam mo, sasabihin ko sa inyo kung ano mangyayari. It will suck all the energy of the 18th Congress. Halos lahat ng miyembro, mag-aattend," Cayetano said.

"At pustahan tayo, lahat ng anti, pro, pipila para makapagsalita. The who’s who of the Philippines, lahat ng celebrities, basketball players, media, mag-aattend kayong lahat," he added.

"Is it the right timing? Tayo ba lahat nasa right frame of mind ngayon o may mga init ng ulo pa?” Cayetano said.

President Rodrigo Duterte's SONA is scheduled in the third Monday of July.

Earlier, Senate President Tito Sotto and House Committee on Legislative Franchises Vice-Chairman Tonypet Albano said that ABS-CBN would not have to cease operations, despite having an expired franchise, until June 2022 or the end of the 18th Congress since there remained pending bills seeking ABS-CBN'S franchise renewal.

Sotto and Albano had said that there was a presumption of regularity as regards the network's continued operations with the franchise bills pending before the House. 

Congress, however, will go on break from February to May 2022 to give way for the campaign period set by the Commission on Elections for the 2022 presidential elections.

Cayetano could not explicitly say whether he agrees or disagrees with what Sotto and Albano had said.

“Chairman Albano agrees; Senate President agrees. I looked at the legal basis, parang habang hindi nade-deny [ang pending bills, hindi magsasara], kaya sana, ‘yun rin ang isipin niyo,” Cayetano said.

“Mag-hearing tayo [ngayon], panay init ng ulo, e ‘pag na-deny e ‘di sarado. Oh, ‘pag na-approve naman, nandiyan din ‘yung protesta. If I thought, in my judgement, that it will be good for the country at mare-resolve natin right away, nagpatawag na ako ng hearing. Pero tingin ko ‘yung dalawang linggo sa committee at dalawang linggo sa plenary, hindi mangyayari,” Cayetano added.

The 11 pending bills seeking ABS-CBN's franchise renewal have been pending before the House Committee on Legislative Franchises since August 2019.

ABS-CBN has around 11,000 employees. 

President Duterte had repeatedly threatened to close down ABS-CBN over the broadcast network's alleged failure to air his paid political advertisement during the campaign period for the 2016 presidential elections. — DVM/NB, GMA News